By Andrew Warshaw
November 28 – In an unprecedented step that further tarnishes the reputation of one of the most eagerly awaited club fixtures of the season and the biggest in South America, Conmebol has decided to move the twice postponed Copa Libertadores final second leg between River Plate and Boca Juniors to a neutral venue outside of Argentina.
Following the headline-making scenes at the weekend when the bus carrying the Boca team was attacked by rival fans, hospitalising two players, kick-off was delayed several times on Saturday before the game was postponed 24 hours, only to be called off again when Boca said they were not in a fit state to play.
With the tie deemed too dangerous to be played anywhere in Argentina, the game is now scheduled to take place on either December 8 or 9 but as yet South American football’s governing body has not said where.
Conmebol president Alejandro Dominguez met with the presidents of both clubs on Tuesday and told a news conference: “The conditions to play in Argentina are not right. Football is not about violence, it is decided with goals. Football is not what we saw on the weekend. That is a disease that needs to be eradicated.”
The delay is designed to give Boca’s players suitable time to recover with many squad members still suffering from dizziness and vomiting due to the tear gas used by Argentinian police to disperse River Plate’s hostile fans. Boca captain, Pablo Perez, is also still nurturing an eye injury after suffering splinter wounds when the team bus windows were shattered.
It remains unclear whether the match will be played behind closed doors despite being held in another country. Boca are even understood to be opposed to the newly suggested dates having originally requested that Conmebol disqualify River and award them the trophy by default.
Some reports said the United Arab Emirates was the frontrunner since that is where the Club World Cup, in which the winner of the Copa Libertadores, participates, is being hosted the week after the proposed dates. The Paraguayan capital of Asunción, headquarters of Conmebol, is another option, while Miami is also apparently being considered.
While the fixture had been billed as the biggest club match in the 127-year history of Argentine football (tantalisingly poised after the first leg ended 2-2), before a ball has even been kicked it’s a final that will live long in the memory but for totally the wrong reasons.
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